A Perilous Progress: Economists and Public Purpose in by Michael A. Bernstein

By Michael A. Bernstein

The economics career in twentieth-century the United States all started as a humble quest to appreciate the "wealth of nations." It grew right into a occupation of massive public prestige--and now suffers a surprisingly withered public objective. Michael Bernstein portrays a occupation that has ended up repudiating the kingdom that nurtured it, ignoring distributive justice, and disproportionately privileging inner most wishes within the examine of financial lifestyles. highbrow introversion has robbed it, he contends, of the very public effect it coveted and cultivated for thus lengthy. With wit and irony he examines how a neighborhood of specialists now pointed out with uncritical party of ''free market'' virtues was once itself formed, dramatically so, through govt and collective action.

In arresting and provocative element Bernstein describes economists' fitful efforts to sway a nation gear the place values and targets may possibly seldom stay break free potential and process, and the way their vocation used to be eventually humbled via govt itself. Replete with novel study findings, his paintings additionally analyzes the ancient peculiarities that led the career to a key function within the modern backlash opposed to federal tasks courting from the Thirties to reform the nation's monetary and social life.

Interestingly adequate, students have principally missed the background that has formed this occupation. An economist by way of education, Bernstein brings a historian's sensibilities to his narrative, using vast archival study to bare unstated presumptions that, throughout the corporation of economists themselves, have come to mould and outline, and occasionally really deform, public discourse.

This publication bargains very important, even troubling insights to readers drawn to the trendy financial and political heritage of the U.S. and puzzled by way of fresh traits in public coverage debate. It additionally enhances a starting to be literature at the historical past of the social sciences. guaranteed to have a long-lasting influence on its box, A Perilous Progress represents a unprecedented contribution of gritty empirical learn and conceptual boldness, of grand narrative breadth and profound analytical depth.

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It was the journal, in fact, that constituted the central locus within which this interest was worked through—for it was on matters of article and topic selection, book review strategies, and expository modes that definitive choices affecting it had to be made. 37 Of immediate concern to the founding editor of the AER was the problem of handling “polemical” articles. Though such screeds, in his view, might be lively in style, they carried the risk of damaging the reputation of economics as a discipline and of economists as an expert community.

At the same time, having already weathered strenuous disputes over the nature of their founding professional society, they were particularly sensitive to questions of objectivity and scientific rigor in their work. 6 In shaping an authoritative community, American economists could, by the early 1900s, look with satisfaction on the intellectual and institutional processes that had, in both the long and the short run, set the terms of their task. What they could not anticipate, of course, were the particular historical circumstances within which they would have to work toward its completion.

Yet it was also born of an increasingly confident vision of an objective and scientific organization. By the first decade of the new century, that image had assumed a coherence that allowed AEA president (and distin- S H A P I N G A N A U T H O R I TAT I V E C O M M U N I T Y 17 guished professor at the University of Pennsylvania) Simon N. Patten to put earlier controversies in perspective. Patten told none other than Richard Ely, in the fall of 1909, that even if the Association “was a protest not only against the narrow English economists but also against .

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